American Buddhism as a Way of Life

Paul Harvey

A couple of new books of note, with short reviews from Choice:

1) American Buddhism as a Way of Life

I'll put the Choice reviews up as separate posts. First, for American Buddhism:

American Buddhism as a way of life, ed. by Gary Storhoff and John Whalen-Bridge. SUNY Press, 2010. 217p index afp; ISBN 9781438430935, $75.00; ISBN 9781438430942 pbk, $24.95. Reviewed in 2011jan CHOICE.
This useful series of essays focuses on ways Buddhism has been transmitted to the US in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Beginning with an analysis of the influence of pivotal Buddhist teachers Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki, this book proceeds to evaluate some basic elements of the fusion of the many forms of Buddhism into American culture, along with the pivotal tensions created by that fusion. One of the most valuable features of these discussions is the selection of such a wide range of examples illustrating a central point: that in spite of the apparent conflict in basic categories (e.g., Buddhism's emphasis on no self, impermanence, and interdependence versus the American culture of individualism, self-reliance, privacy, and self-promotion), large numbers of Americans, though not formally "Buddhists," have been profoundly influenced by Buddhism, while Buddhism has in turn demonstrated that it can adjust to American culture. The result is an original, representative, and thoroughly informative look at "American Buddhism" introducing itself into and becoming an accepted part of American life. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. -- J. M. Boyle, formerly, Dowling College


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